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Growing in the Garden: Edible Wild Foods (Part 2)

Growing in the Garden blog posts originally aired in 2019 as a radio show produced by the Food Sovereignty Initiative for KOYA 88.1 FM, the community radio station owned and operated by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. They have been transcribed and adapted to be shared here as a community resource.


Welcome back Rosebud, to another episode of Growing in the Garden! Last week we started to talk about wild foods, including how to harvest, what to harvest, and when to harvest.


A quick reminder on good harvesting practices: bring tobacco as an offering, say a prayer to thank the plant relatives for their medicine, have a good mind and heart, and be mindful of future generations and our animal relatives. Whenever we harvest, we should do so in a way that ensures that these plant medicines will be around for others who also depend on them.


So this week, since spring is a busy time, we are going to talk about a few more plants you can harvest.


One such plant is burdock. Burdock can often be found along rivers and disturbed habitats. The plant can grow to be quite tall. Its leaves are large, wavy, and heart-shaped, and are green on the top but look off-white on the bottom. The plant's most distinguishing feature might be its burrs, which often have purple flowers on top of them. A quick fun fact about the burrs: one day in the 1940’s, a Swiss inventor was walking outside with his dog and noticed that the burdock burrs were sticking to his clothes and his dog. Upon further examination, he noticed the natural hook system, which later inspired the inventor to create Velcro!


Burdock beginning to bloom (source).


But besides inspiring inventions, burdock is edible! You can peel and then boil the stems and roots, and the leaves can be eaten as well. If the plant is young, it can be consumed raw, but it is recommended you cook the plant if it is older. In addition to being edible, you can also use burdock to create salves for skin. Burdock has gentle antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties that make it great for topical use.


The second plant we’d like to talk to you about this week is curly dock. The stems can grow to about four feet high. They have long, narrow leaves that sort of curl at the edges, almost looking like crispy bacon. The leaves can have almost a blue-ish green tinge. The flowers and seeds are usually produced in clusters on the stems. The seeds are shiny and brown, and are almost encased in the flowers that create them. Curly dock plants are usually found in moist areas or disturbed habitats.


Curly Dock (source).


During the spring and summer, you can eat the leaves, which are high in iron, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. They’ll have a bit of a citrus-y, sour flavor, and we would recommend eating younger plants, as they’ll taste better. If you don’t want to eat them raw, you can boil them for about twenty minutes. Or, if you’re not interested in eating the leaves, you can crush them to treat boils or other skin irritations. One important thing to note: curly dock leaves are high in oxalic acid, which can cause stomach irritation if you consume too much. So, when eating curly dock, make sure to limit how much you eat at a time.


The last plant we will talk about this week is ceyaka! This is a commonly-known plant here on the Rosebud, but we’d still like to share a little bit of information about this relative. Ceyaka is wild mint and can be found near water. It is identifiable as part of the mint family by its square stem. Ceyaka is usually harvested in the summer, and can be used either fresh or dry. One of the most common ways to use the plant is to crush the leaves and use them to make a tea. Ceyaka tea is great medicine: it can calm upset stomachs, treat colds, or, if you drink it cold in the summertime, cool down your body.


Check out this YouTube video about ceyaka that we made last year as part of our how-to series on harvesting wild foods, 'Our Wild Relatives!'


An important reminder: Plants that are found in or near water may hold toxic waste or chemicals that are in the water. You shouldn’t harvest near busy streets or gas stations. Before harvesting, make sure you check the water source to ensure that it’s clean and safe for you to harvest.


The plants around us are amazing relatives. They help us stay healthy. Next time you go for a walk, make sure you look for wild and edible plants. And send us a message on Facebook if you harvest and use them!


Thanks again for listening. Until next week!


For more information about gardening, harvesting, local foods, and to keep up with the Food Sovereignty Initiative, find us on our Facebook page, Sicangu Community Development Corporation.


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